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A Snails Chase: May 24 is National Escargot Day

Escargots are one of those food items folks either love or cannot get past their lips.

While normally associated with France, other countries like Portugal, Italy and Spain get in on the action of cooking up this delicacy too.

The word “escargot” in French translates to “edible snail.” (Are there non-edible types and who figured this out?)

For the most part, preparations are simple. Each culture cooks this delicacy a variety of ways, from simple garlic, butter and wine “Escargots A La Bourguignonne” to “Lucmache Marinara” or snails in marinara.

When we learned May 24 is National Escargot Day, we thought it would be fun to know where one can get escargot in the area. There are several lovely options spanning from the Northtowns to the Southtowns, which leads us to believe the little creature has a surprisingly secret following (you know who you are).

Here they are (and bon appétit):

Rue Franklin (341 Franklin St.)

On its spring menu, the Rue Franklin is serving a Spring Snails with Peas. Chef-owner Corey Kley says his snail dish will appear throughout the spring and again in the fall, going on hiatus for summer.

Breaking away from a traditional preparation, Kley says his escargot are a departure of what was done at Rue Franklin in the past.

“For our dish we use a combination of chicken and vegetable stock that’s enriched with a brown butter. We add black garlic and our house made beer vinegar made from Flying Bison,” he said. “The black garlic and beer vinegar is a match made in heaven.” (Note: Black garlic is another name for fermented garlic.)

Kley notes the black garlic only gives the dish a nuance of garlic taste.

“The dish has a familiar, yet fresh taste that is loaded with umami that makes you want to keep eating,” he said. While there is no cream, Kley said the snail sauce has a rich, creamy taste and texture.

The snails and sauce are served on top of a salad of peas — sugar, snap and English — along with fresh and charred cucumber, shallots and herbs. Gremolata (lemon, garlic and parlsey mixture) tops the dish.

“I love this dish. If snails are done right, they are delicious. This dish has been very well-received by our customers,” said Kley. And the reason they keep calling for more bread to soak up all that loveliness.

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Daniels Restaurant (174 Buffalo St., Hamburg)

Daniels Restaurant uses an imported French Helix snail (an extra large snail). The escargots are done with a simple roasted garlic beurre blanc. A little cream is added along with fresh chopped tomato. The snails are served on an open pasta sheet.

Chef-owner Scott Donhauser of Daniels Restaurant said when he took over for retiring owner Daniel Johengen, he sat down with the servers and Johengen to talk about what to keep from the original menu.

“It was one of those dishes the servers told us we cannot take off the menu,” he said.

Donhauser puts customers into two camps — diners who cannot get past the concept of eating snails and those who can’t get enough.

“We have one gentleman who has us make him four orders for his appetizer,” said Donhauser, whose own daughter recently tried them and has been hooked ever since.

“She never had them, now she loves them and says, ‘Dad, I have to always order them when I come in,’” he laughed.

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Webster’s Bistro & Bar (102 Webster St., North Tonawanda)

Chef Jeremy VanAntwerp prepares his snails in the classic French bistro style, done with garlic, shallot and white wine.

Escargot at Webster's Bistro & Bar. (Photo credit: Chef Jeremy VanAntwerp)

“We take a beginners approach to escargot,” said VanAntwerp, who says he starts by gently sautéing shallots and garlic, then hits it with white wine and what he calls “an obnoxious amount of butter.” The sauce is finished with fresh herbs so they keep bright green.

The imported French escargot are put into the escargot crock, then topped with just enough sauce. Puff pastry cut in the shape of a fleur-de-lis tops this dish that is baked off in the oven.

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The best of the rest:

Hutch’s Restaurant (1375 Delaware Ave.)

Hutch’s Restaurant uses wild Burgundy snails imported from Burgundy, France. Served in a traditional escargot dish with round holes to hold the escargot, Hutch’s snails get a Pernod-garlic-butter treatment giving them a delicate anise flavor. A side of bread comes to soak up all the juices.

Tabree Restaurant (4610 Main St., Snyder)

Tabree also serves the wild Burgundy snails, but prepares them with a citrus herb butter. The escargots come with crostini to soak up the juice.

Cammarata’s Restaurant (6336 Robinson Road, Lockport)

At Cammarata’s, Escargots ala Cammarata are done with a simple butter, garlic and white wine sauce served over a small nest of spaghetti. Folks can add a little grated cheese if they like.

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Fun with snails

On Twitter, we are now following Douglas Dussault, known as “The Snail Man,” who “imports the world’s finest snails.” Twitter: @thesnailman | potironne.com

And recently on NPR’s website, there was a story about a South African vineyard that uses Indian Runner Ducks to clean its vines of white dune snails which can wreck havoc on the fields. (Read the story and watch the hilarious video here.)

The ducks are highly efficient, and can get in between the vines better than humans to eat the snails without damaging the plants. Hey, if the snails are good enough for the ducks, they are good enough for us.

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